The Quants Explain Disaster

Saturday, August 18, 2007 | 06:00 AM

Floyd Norris posted a fabulous take down of the report from Goldman Sachs entitled “The Quant Liquidity Crunch." 

The annotations are by a hedge fund manager who sent me a copy of the report to Norris. The Goldman quotes from the report are in italics, while the fund manager's commentary is on regular type.

a) “we do not believe that current prices reflect fundamental values” — based on what?  The very models that failed you last week?

b) “No one, however, could possibly have forecast the extent of deleveraging or the magnitude of last week’s factor returns.” Bullshit. Buffett and Munger have been warning about the dangers of excessive leverage combined with crowded trades for quite some time.

c) “what the market experienced in recent days has been completely unprecedented” More baloney. 100-year storms happen every few years in financial markets. Always have, always will (though every storm’s a little bit different — maybe that’s what they mean). The only completely unprecedented thing was the LACK of any 100-year storms for the past few years.

d) “Going forward, we believe that successful quant managers will have to rely more on unique factors.” Given that you don’t seem to have come up with any, why should anyone believe that you will now? And given that every quant manager on the planet is trying to do the same thing, what makes you think that everyone else won’t come up with the same “more unique factors”?

e) “to protect our investors, we will need to make more of an effort to make sure that our proprietary factors remain proprietary” Yeah, that’s the problem: other quant managers stealing your highly proprietary factors of buying stocks with momentum or companies trading at low multiples of cash flow.

f) “In the coming weeks, we will continue to analyze this extraordinary period. We will also re-evaluate and re-prioritize our research agenda in light of recent events. Stay tuned. As we continue to study these events, we hope to gain additional insights that will help us avoid similar problems in the future.” Translation: we don’t know what happened to us or what we’re going to do about it, but we really, really, really don’t want to admit that the fundamental premise of our business is fatally flawed and shut down, so we’ll come up with something.

g) “we remain confident that stocks with better valuations, higher profitability, better earnings quality, shareholder-friendly management, strong momentum and improving analyst sentiment will outperform”  I think they just about covered every single investing cliche here…

h) “our process should continue to add value under normal market conditions” Finally, in the last sentence, they perhaps inadvertently reveal the truth: their success depends on NORMAL MARKET CONDITIONS! In other words, what they do works 99% of the time, but the other 1% of the time they blow up — especially since they insist on using a ton of leverage because their brilliant models tell them that what happened last week was a 28-standard deviation event. Hint: IT WASN’T!

Fantastic stuff . . .

The Quants Explain Disaster
Floyd Norris
Notions on High and Low Finance
NYT, August 15, 2007,  6:16 pm

See Also:

The Shareholder Letter You Should, But Won’t, Be Reading Next Spring
Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dear Investors, We're...
Hedge Funds Strain To Find Words to Say 'Sorry' for Your Losses
WSJ, August 16, 2007; Page C1

Saturday, August 18, 2007 | 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack (2) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Quants Explain Disaster:

» The Quants Explain Disaster from
Joe Nocera (Subscription): Back in 1998, that now infamous quant fund really did melt down, not only liquidating, but shaking the entire global financial system. Long-Term used complex computer models that failed to anticipate some severe once-in-a-lif... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 18, 2007 6:31:31 AM

» A cranky hedge fund manager reviews a GS report from Newmark's Door
Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture reprints the key part of a Floyd Norris blog entry that is apparently behind the NY Times pay firewall. A hedge fund manager sent Mr. Norris a copy of a recent Goldman Sachs report, [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 18, 2007 8:28:19 AM


Love the annotations. Next week should be interesting!

Looking forward to the linkfest

Posted by: Bagholder | Aug 18, 2007 7:25:36 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

Recent Posts

December 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      


Complete Archives List



Category Cloud

On the Nightstand

On the Nightstand

 Subscribe in a reader

Get The Big Picture!
Enter your email address:

Read our privacy policy

Essays & Effluvia

The Apprenticed Investor

Apprenticed Investor

About Me

About Me
email me

Favorite Posts

Tools and Feeds

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to The Big Picture

Powered by FeedBurner

Add to Technorati Favorites


My Wishlist

Worth Perusing

Worth Perusing

mp3s Spinning

MP3s Spinning

My Photo



Odds & Ends

Site by Moxie Design Studios™